Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1258, (13 - 19 August 2015)
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1258, (13 - 19 August 2015)

Ahram Weekly

End the Israeli settlements

Al-Ahram Weekly

At dawn, the extremists arrived in Duma, a village near Nablus, and went about their dirty business. They were part of a vigilante settler group that calls itself “Price Tag.” By the time they left, two houses were on fire, one of which was empty.

In the second house, an infant, Ali Dawabsheh, his parents and his brother were fast asleep. Ali’s charred body was later collected from the ashes. His father died in hospital from his burns. His mother and brother were both gravely burned.

The vigilantes made their message loud and clear. But this time, the reaction of the Israeli government was curious. Palestinians have been complaining about the Israeli settlers for as long as anyone can remember. They say that only a fraction of their reports to the Israeli authorities is given due attention.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, instead of playing down the incident, appeared at the hospital to offer sympathy to the victims and to declare that all acts of terrorism will be punished, regardless of who the perpetrators are. His defence minister reiterated the same position, promising to find and punish the perpetrators.

In any other country, this would be expected. But in Israel it gives one pause. Is this not the same prime minister that ordered the brutal bombing of the Gaza Strip that took the lives of hundreds of children not so long ago? Is this not the same Israeli army, under the authority of the country’s defence minister, that has made a habit of harassing the Palestinians?

Is this not the same government that pursues the building of settlements that run in the face of international law and norms?

But this time, the tone was different. The crime was so heinous that even men who advocate violence, get elected to office through scare tactics and lose no opportunity to scuttle peace thought it wise to change tack.

On earlier occasions, the Israelis have found excuses for their atrocities, saying that the Palestinians had lobbed rockets at them, had stoned them or had provoked them in one way or another. This time, there was no provocation whatsoever. Israel was shorn of its excuses. A family sleeping in their own home was attacked at dawn by unknown zealots making claims on their land.

Things went too far this time, but the essence of the situation is painfully familiar: the Palestinians are intruding on Jewish land, they have no right to live where their ancestors lived for centuries, and they must be expelled or suffer the consequences.

Israel, feeling the pinch of international isolation, has not been able to push its luck this time. But that does not mean it is about to change its policies. Its show of compassion on this occasion is meant to deflect criticism, not to right wrongs.

The Arab League once again called on the UN Security Council to do something about Israeli crimes. And the Palestinian president spoke about war crimes and the International Criminal Court. But the international reaction to these latest crimes was little more than perfunctory, and it will almost certainly be short-lived.

These crimes, too, will be forgotten. The fact that the Palestinians have been suing for peace for 25 years will be forgotten. Israel will continue to grab land and retaliate for so-called provocations with excessive force. Its politicians may denounce the settlers, but back in their offices they will busy themselves drawing up plans for more settlements.

If the Israelis are really serious about Jewish terrorism, they shouldn’t just make promises to get tough on crime. They should end the settlements and give the Palestinians back their land.

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